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The Implication of Semiotics in the Requirements Elicitation and Analysis Process

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The Implication of Semiotics in the Requirements Elicitation and Analysis Process BINBIN LIU 1. Introduction In the field of Requirements Engineering (RE), understanding and representing users' requirements is a crucial aspect in development of information systems especially in complex e-enterprise systems. The requirements elicitation and analysis (REA) process which is one of main processes in the requirements engineering process (Sommerville, 2001) involves many complex problems. The problems include how to interpret users' requirements into what developers can understand and implement into systems more efficiently. This is what semiotics which aims at discovering 'what constitutes signs and what laws govern them' (a quote of Saussure, cited in Liu (2000, p. 13)) is trying to solve. Knowledge of the semiotic framework provides a structured method to analyse the requirements from social world to physical world (Liu, 2000). This essay will examine the implication of semiotics in the requirements elicitation and analysis process and demonstrate how the semiotics contributes to understanding and representing requirements in the development of e-enterprise systems. In this essay, knowledge of the semiotics will be involved in order to support collecting and analysing requirements and bridge some of the gaps between semiotics and requirements analysis. And the essay will try to find further possible methodology applied to Requirements Engineering using semiotics. The structure of this essay is as follows. Firstly, a recognised process for eliciting and analysing requirements is presented in section 2 as the preparations of integration with semiotics. Then, the essay will find the outputs of the upper three levels in semiotic framework. ...read more.


In each phase, they can just concentrate on the problems of a specific semiotic level. In this section, the semiotic framework is integrated with the REA process through the analysis of both concepts of them and outputs that they make. In this semiotic framework aided REA process, analysts can use many semiotic approaches to support their analysis, which will be listed in the next section. 3. The contribution that semiotics makes in the REA process Current contribution of semiotics to the information technology industry involves norms analysis, pragmatic analysis, semantic analysis, project planning, system modelling and requirements analysis etc. In the process of REA, the studies of the semiotics focus on the requirements analysis, the management of requirements and the project planning etc. In this section, some semiotic approaches applied into the REA process will be discussed and evaluated. The implication of semiotics will also be examined as a part of the research in the essay. 3.1 MEASUR MEASUR is one of the vast semiotic methodologies, which is a radically new set of norm-oriented methods for business systems modelling and requirements specification for software development (Liu, 2000, p. 37). It consists of five methods: Problem Articulation Methods (PAM), Semantic Analysis Method (SAM), Norm Analysis Method (NAM), Communication and Control Analysis (CCA) and Meta-Systems Analysis (CSA). Table 3.1 shows which activities can the semiotic methods in MEASUR serve. Semiotic levels Activities in the REA process Semiotic methodology Social level Domain understanding PAM, SAM Pragmatic level Requirements collection SAM, NAM Semantic level Classification PAM, SAM Conflict resolution Prioritisation Requirements checking PAM Requirements specification Table 3.1 Current semiotic approaches in ...read more.


In the future, semiotics might intervene further more in these activities to help analysts manage any information. 5. Conclusion In information systems engineering, semiotics as a new methodology has been paid more attention to in order to solve uncertainties in development of information systems. Requirements engineering as a crucial part of development needs methodological help from the semiotics. This help now includes project planning and management, requirements elicitation and analysis, systems analysis and design, business process modelling, organisational semiotics, systems integration and human-computer interaction etc. Requirement elicitation and analysis as a stage of requirements engineering processes involves many complicated activities including domain understanding, requirements collection, classification, conflict resolution, prioritisation, requirements checking and specification. These activities have many problems waiting for efficient solutions. Semiotics in requirements understanding and representing has done a great amount of jobs using many analysis methods such as PAM, SAM, NAM etc. In these methods, many semiotic theories have been used for Infrastructure analysis and systems analysis, design and implementation. Furthermore, the process of requirements elicitation and analysis can be reconsidered to a great degree when the semiotic framework intervened in. Six levels of semiotic framework including physical level, empiric level, syntactic level, semantic level, pragmatic level and social level draw a structure for the REA process. Because of this, requirements management could be easy if analysts divide requirements into different semiotic levels and it could be easy to make reversion check or change requirements during analysis. Although semiotics has made great contributions to information systems engineering, it never stops. As uncertainties in analysis rise because more human's intentions and activities have been added in information systems, semiotics would be a great methodology to solve these problems in development of information systems. ...read more.

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